WASHINGTON, D.C. (Circle of Protection/Mennonite Church USA)– As President Obama prepares to present his plan for his final two years in office in the annual State of the Union address next week, a group of Christian leaders is already looking ahead to what the next president may do to address hunger and poverty.
The group of 100 Christian leaders, which includes Ervin Stutzman, Mennonite Church USA executive director, and J. Ron Byler, Mennonite Central Committee USA executive director, is challenging all presidential candidates to appear on camera in a video stating how they propose to provide help and opportunity to hungry and poor people in the United States and abroad.
“We are praying for a president who will make ending hunger and poverty a top priority of his or her administration. Are you that leader?” a statement from the group asks. The full statement is available online.
The leaders, convened by the Circle of Protection, represent a diverse array of Christian denominations, churches, colleges, and agencies across the country.
“We want to be a part of reminding our national leaders of the priorities of who we are as a people, and we want to make sure that all people are cared for,” said Stutzman. “We know that the both the church and the government play important roles in providing a circle of protection around those in need. We want to hear from candidates about how they intend to make caring for the poor a priority.”
The leaders and their organizations will disseminate the videos throughout their networks and memberships in order to raise hunger and poverty as an election issue.
“We will be calling on people of faith to examine presidential candidates to see if they have a heart for poor and hungry people. We want to know how each candidate proposes to fulfill the mandate to those who govern to “give deliverance to the needy” (Psalm 72), the leaders said in their statement released today.
According to the latest U.S. Census data, 49 million Americans are at risk of hunger, while 45 million live in poverty. One in five children lives in poverty. That is 15 million children, 5 million of them under age 6.
Mennonite Church USA and MCC were invited to sign on to this statement through their involvement with Christian Churches Together.
“In this initiative, a broad spectrum of Christians are working together on behalf of the ‘least of these’,” said Andre Gingerich Stoner, director of interchurch relations and holistic witness for Mennonite Church USA. “ It is a wonderful example of the kind of witness that is possible when we have trusting relationships and ongoing earnest conversation within the body of Christ.”
The challenge to candidates was issued today during a press conference organized by the Circle of Protection. Speakers included Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World; Galen Carey, vice president of government relations for the National Association of Evangelicals; Rev. Sèkinah Hamlin, director of the Ecumenical Poverty Initiative; Rev. Carlos Malavè, executive director of Christian Churches Together; Rev. Larry Snyder, president of Catholic Charities USA; and Rev. Jim Wallis, president and founder of Sojourners.
The Circle of Protection is a coalition composed of more than 65 heads of denominations, relief and development agencies, and other Christian organizations. www.circleofprotection.us